Tag Archives: Pa Kent

Superman 161 – the deaths of Ma and Pa Kent, and Superman joins the invasion

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The cover of Superman 161 (May 1963) makes two claims about the stories it contains.  That Superman will go to war for the first time, and that the Kents will die.  Only one of those truly happens.

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Surprisingly, it’s the deaths of the Kents, as told an an Untold Tale by Dorfman and Plastino.  The fact that his adoptive parents had died shortly before he became Superman (either as a start to his career, or a change from Superboy) had been established right from the start.  But never had the specific circumstances of this been revealed.

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The story is told in flashback, as Clark visits his parents’ graves.  Jonathan and Martha Kent were on a vacation in the Caribbean, and came across a treasure chest belonging to Blackbeard.

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For fun, Superboy brings them back through time, and the Kents watch as the teen plays games with the notorious pirate.

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The Kents fall sick as soon as they get back.  Lana Lang helps the increasingly distressed Clark.  Luthor offers to cure the Kents, but when he fails, claims they aren’t worth saving anyway.  Asshole.

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By the time it occurs to Superboy to put his parents into the Phantom Zone, sunspot activity is preventing the machine to access the Zone from working.  There is nothing Clark can do except watch his parents die.

The coda of the story has him consumed with guilt, until he learns that the Kents were killed by a tropical fever, the spores of which were in the treasure chest they dug up and opened.

Really a pretty good story, avoiding any major villain plots or nonsense like that.

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I think far less of the cover story, despite being by Hamilton, Swan and Klien, my favourite creative team from the era.

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Perry White arranges for Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen to play soldiers in a film about an invasion.  But the abandoned island the film is being made on turns out to have soldiers in it, so the war becomes “real.”  Clark fears his identity being exposed, and is frustrated at not being able to use his powers, so Supergirl comes by and “gives” Clark temporary super-powers.

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A huge and preposterous set-up, and the conclusion reveals that the people they are fighting against are really aliens.  So Superman is fighting aliens, as he has done many times before.  He is not fighting to the death, as war would imply.  So nothing special about this story.

 

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Superman 146 – the origin of Superman, updated

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With all the details being added to Superman’s backstory, it was no surprise when issue 146 (July 1961) was used to re-tell the basic story, adding in all the new information.

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Binder and Plastino adhere to the very brief, basic story told in the late 1940s, but add in Jor-El’s brother Zor-El, the attempt to build a space ark, and Krypto’s test flight.  Although Zor-El is mentioned to be Supergirl’s father, we do not see her story at all.

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I love that thud.

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The Kents find the baby boy, drop him off at an orphanage where he wreaks havoc, then adopt him.  Details are shown of how his costume was made from his blankets, and his glasses from the rocket window.  Scenes such as learning to fly with balloons are drawn directly out of Superboy stories from Adventure and his own book.

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Only towards the end , after the deaths of the Kents, does it contain a flashback to a story published in Superman, the people in Smallville saying farewell, and the Superboy cake.

This story also goes into the greatest detail yet on which powers are caused by gravity, and which from exposure to yellow sunlight.

Superman 141 – Superman’s Return to Krypton

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Superman returns to Krypton, just like it proclaims on the cover of issue 141 (Nov.60), in this classic story by Siegel, Boring and Kaye.

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Superman tries to get rid of a strange alien creature he comes across in space, but winds up shunted backwards in time, winding up on Krypton before its explosion.  This story is the first time that the colour of sunlight Superman is exposed to is given as the source of Kryptonian powers.  It had already been established in the Action Comics story which introduced Supergirl, but this goes into more detail on the effects of the sunlight, and how their powers vanish under a red sun.

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By good fortune, he is mistaken as a extra on a science fiction movie being filmed, due to his costume.  A silly plot point allows him to continue wearing this suit for the remainder of the tale.  Superman is quite taken with the lead actress in the film, Lyla Lerrol, but also shocked to see that his parents are about to be married.  He attends the ceremony, though he does not introduce himself.

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Eventually, he cannot resist the opportunity, and heads over to their home to meet Jor-El and Lara.  He winds up becoming Jor-El’s lab assistant, though also still working on the movie.  It turns out Jor-El knows Lyla, and arranges and introduction.

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Things get hot between Superman and Lyla pretty fast.  The fact that he knows the planet is going to explode may well have something to do with that.  The panel that is meant to build suspense, showing the deadly forces within the planet’s core, instead comes off as something quasi-sexual, due to its placement between embraces.

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Superman helps Jor-El with the construction of a space ark to evacuate all of Krypton’s inhabitants.  Jor-El has been monitoring Earth, and Superman winds up seeing the Kents before their marriage, and even helping Jonathan Kent save Martha Clark from a thieving scoundrel.

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But the space ark was being built in Kandor, and despite his super-memory, Superman apparently forgot that Kandor was stolen by Brainiac.  Not until the alien shrinks the city does Superman realize what a bad place they chose to build the ark.  In a nice nod to continuity, Brainiac is shown without his head knobs, but with his chimp Koko, a way he had not appeared since his debut story.

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Superman resigns himself to perishing on Krypton, and decides to marry Lyla before this happens.  The final day of the shooting of the movie, the day before the wedding, Superman gets trapped on the movie’s rocket ship, and winds up shot into space.  Lyla is distraught, realizing she will never see Kal-El again. The story spares us seeing her die, along with everyone else on Krypton.  But the explosion shoots Superman ahead, back to his own time.

Lyle Lerrol would return in various flashbacks, dreams and imaginary stories over the next couple of decades, but not until the late 90s would a new version of the character be introduced.

The story did remain canon, and would be referenced many times before being eliminated in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Superman 137 – the saga of Super-Menace

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Siegel, Swan and Forte spin a full-length story about an evil double of Superman in issue 137 (May 1960).

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The story has the rocket carrying the infant Superman hit an alien ship while on its way to Earth.  The ship emits a double of Kal-El’s rocket, complete with a double of the baby, which also heads to Earth.

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The double gets found and raised by Wolf and Bonnie Derek, two small time hoods.  The first chapter largely contrasts the way Ma and Pa Kent raise Superbaby to be a good child, and the way the Dereks raise Superbrat to be evil.

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The baby is barely able to walk before they start using him in their crimes.  Oddly, the Dereks do not become as fabulously wealthy as one would expect.

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The second chapter jumps up to the teenage years.  We see little of Superboy in this chapter, but Superbully, as the double is called, learns of his doppleganger.  He comes to Smallville and impersonates Clark Kent, successfully with Lana Lang, less so with Krypto.  Because Superbully is not Kryptonian, he unwittingly helps Clark convince Lana that Superboy is someone else, when he does not have any ill effects from the kryptonite she exposes him to.

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Only in the third chapter to the two meet, as adults, with Super-Menace hunting down Superman.  The two are fairly evenly matched, both able to survive a nuclear blast. Super-Menace has the kryptonite advantage, which he is in the position to use to kill Superman.

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In a bit of a lame out, at this point Super-Menace finally learns that his adoptive parents consider him a monster, and have never loved him.  They have also succeeded at concealing this from their child for decades, only expressing it now.  But it’s still a bad idea, as Super-Menace abandons Superman, who gets away from the kryptonite, and instead chooses to kill the Dereks, and himself.

 

Superman 73 – Hank Garvin, Man of Steel, and Superbaby

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The prominence given to the name Hank Garvin on the cover of Superman 73 (Nov/Dec. 51) made me think that this was a real person, but so far as I can determine, he was not.

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In this story, by Finger and Plastino, he is a wrestler, who survives some extreme accidents.  People begin to believe that he is Superman, though the honest Garvin never claims any such thing.

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And even when Superman finds proof that the accidents Garvin survived were rigged, it is clear that Garvin is an innocent dupe at the core of a large fraud.

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Superman remembers his days as Superbaby in this story by Finger, Boring and Kaye.  Superboy by now had been running for a number of years, but this is the first tale in this book to show young Clark Kent for any extended time.

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This story introduces the idea of Superbaby/boy/man’s costume being made from the blankets found by Ma Kent in the rocket that brought the infant to Earth.  This will account for their invulnerability.  The Kents head on vacation with the baby, who jumps overboard.  Despite having seen the remarkable powers the child has, the Kents just write him off as dead.

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The baby then gets found, and farmed out to some potential families for adoption.  No one ever thinks of changing his clothes, though clearly a fair amount of time passes in this story.  At any rate, his powers cause young Clark to be rejected by family after family, who keep sending the baby “back to the asylum!’ which just sounds evil.

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Eventually the Kents decide to adopt another child, and find Clark alive and well.

Though this story gets dropped from continuity, the idea of Clark being sent to other families before settling with the Kents would return many times.

Superman 53 – The Origin of Superman

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Superman 53 (July/Aug. 48) bills itself as a 10th anniversary issue, and celebrates that by giving the longest origin for Superman yet published.

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The issue also has a letter to the fans, written by Lois Lane, acknowledging all the tributes and success that Superman has achieved over the years.

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Jor-El and Lara, Superman’s parents, are introduced by Finger, Boring and Kaye, on their world of Krypton, doomed to destruction because of its unstable uranium core.  Jor-El presents his findings to the Council, but is laughed at.

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Jor-El has only a small rocket, able to carry their child, Kal-El.  Jor-El has chosen Earth as his destination, after observing it and figuring out that Kryptonians would have super-powers there.

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The rocket lands on Earth, is found by John and Mary Kent.  This is the first time we learn Pa Kent’s first name, as well as the maiden name of Mary – Clark, who the boy is named for.

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We see Clark learning about his powers as he grows up, but no mention is made of his time as Superboy, which was already being chronicled in Adventure Comics at this time.  His mother dies, and his father shortly after.  Only then does he move to Metropolis and become Superman.

Kind of astounding that this bare bones was more than had been shown in the ten years since the character debuted.  The fact that Superman himself is unaware of his Kryptonian background is not really dealt with.

 

Superman 1 – the first comic devoted to a single character

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Superman 1 (Summer 1939), is the first DC Comic devoted to a single character.  The series as a whole would be the first ongoing comic devoted to new stories about a single character, but the first issue cannot quite be characterized that way.  Nor could the second issue.  Or even the third.

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There are only six pages of never-before published Siegel and Shuster material in this issue.  The rest of it consists of reprints of the Superman stories from the first few issues of Action Comics.  While that may seem odd to us, at this time the bulk of comic books were reprints of newspaper strips, so there was nothing unusual about it.

Superman 1 opens with a two page origin story, the most detailed origin of the character to date – and even still, it’s pretty sparse.  Superman is sent to Earth on a huge rocket from the exploding planet Krypton.  He is found by the Kents, of whom only the mother is named – and called Mary.  They drop him off at an orphanage where the baby tears the place apart.  The orphanage is more than happy to hand him back to the Kents.

Then the story covers his powers in a few panels – leaping, not flying, strength, speed and invulnerability (more or less – “nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin”).  The Kents die, and Clark begins his career as Superman.

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The book then goes on to reprint the first Superman tale, from Action Comics 1, but with four more pages from the start of the story.  In this, we see Superman confront nightclub singer Bea Carroll about her murder of Jack Kennedy.  An innocent man has been sentenced to the electric chair for the murder.  Superman gets the confession from Bea, and then streaks off.  From this point on, the story is the one from Action 1.

It is worth noting that the reprint did not bother to correct the colour errors from the first publishing.  Take a look at Superman’s boots in the panels above.  They are red, as they would usually be.

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But in the reprinted pages that follow, Superman’s boots are miscoloured blue, as they were in the story as published in Action Comics 1.